AN ARSONIST caused £20,000 worth of damage, stabbed a man with a screwdriver and threw a stone gargoyle in a canal.

Declan Nash of no fixed address, has pleaded guilty to arson, robbery, theft, assault, racially aggravated assault and criminal damage.

The 21-year-old was described by a judge as suffering from a psychotic episode, possibly caused by long-term cannabis use, when he carried out his crimes.

On October 19 he set fire to an outbuilding which contained a large amount of property belonging to a couple living on a canal boat near Yarnton while they renovated their home.

Rachel Drake, prosecuting, said Nash caused £20,000-worth of damage and told homeowner Emma Westlake when she caught him he was “fighting against demons and angels”.

She said he then approached Anny Gilchrist on her canal boat, asking to use her phone and threw a white gargoyle statue belonging to her into the canal.

Miss Drake said at the same time he stole a screwdriver, which he used to stab Richard Briggs repeatedly in the back, after knocking him off his bike, pushing him into the canal and taking his phone.

The barrister said Nash was arrested and immediately sectioned, but while in Littlemore Mental Health Hospital he attacked two members of staff.

She told Judge Mary Jane Mowat the defendant headbutted Vincent Adjaottor and threw cutlery and food at Akintayo Oladejo, while calling him an “African monkey”.

Miss Drake added that he also escaped from custody while on a visit to the John Radcliffe Hospital, before eventually returning to the mental health hospital.

Jeannie Mackie, defending, said her client had started the fire because he spotted some DVDs and “wanted to destroy the demons that were within the shed”.

She said: “This was behaviour that was formed by a temporary but severe psychotic breakdown.”

Passing sentence Judge Mowat at Oxford Crown Court said it was a “most bizarre and difficult case” because no one had recommended Nash be given mental health treatment.

She said: “You were probably suffering from a psychotic episode at the time of these offences, most likely a drug-induced psychosis or stress-induced psychosis rather than a long-term illness.

“The only option, it seems to me, is a custodial sentence.”

She sentenced Nash to 33 months in prison and told him to pay a £120 victims’ surcharge.

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